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Manchester, William (Raymond) 1922-2004

MANCHESTER, William (Raymond) 1922-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE—

See index for CA sketch: Born April 1, 1922, in Attleboro, MA; died June 1, 2004, in Middletown, CT. Journalist, educator, and author. Manchester wrote both fiction and nonfiction, but was best known for his meticulously researched biographies, especially those about John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and Douglas MacArthur. Not long after he enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, the United States entered World War II and Manchester joined the Marines. He saw action in the Pacific theater and was wounded twice, once so severely he almost died. He would later write about these experiences in Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (1980). Returning to school, he completed a B.A. at Massachusetts State College and the next year earned a master's degree at the University of Missouri. He started his career as a reporter with the Daily Oklahoman in 1945, and was a reporter and foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun through the early 1950s. Having published his first biography, Disturber of the Peace: The Life of H. L. Mencken, to good reviews in 1951, Manchester was hired by Mencken himself in 1954 to serve as a personal secretary; Mencken became a mentor, encouraging Manchester to write more. He initially focused on novels, publishing such works as The City of Anger (1953), Beard the Lion (1958), and The Long Gainer (1961). After working as managing editor of Wesleyan University Publications from 1955 to 1964, Manchester became increasingly interested in nonfiction. A 1959 biographical work about the Rockefeller family was followed in 1962 by Portrait of a President: John F. Kennedy in Profile. The biography paints a highly positive picture of Kennedy, whom Manchester much admired, and led to the president's widow hiring Manchester to write about JFK's assassination. The Death of a President: November 20-November 25, 1963 (1967) drew the author into conflict with Jacqueline Kennedy because Manchester had written some less-than-flattering comments about President Lyndon Johnson, whose support was then needed for Robert Kennedy's bid for a U.S. Senate seat; the president's widow, who had contractual control over the manuscript's publication, also resisted an agreement to have the book serialized. These disputes were ironed out eventually; the biography was released and eventually followed up with Manchester's One Brief Shining Moment: Remembering Kennedy (1983). Becoming highly respected for his in-depth historical research, as reflected in his National Book Award-nominated biography American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964, Manchester was hired in 1979 as an adjunct professor of history at Wesleyan University, a position he held until his retirement in 1992. In the meantime, he completed the first two volumes of his ambitious portrait of Winston Churchill: The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume 1: Visions of Glory: 1874-1932 (1983) and The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume 2:Alone: 1932-1940 (1987). The last volume of the trilogy, which the author had not completed at his death, was scheduled to be cowritten by Paul Reid for a 2007 release. In addition to his biographies, Manchester also wrote general history in such books as The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972 (1974) and A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age (1992). Much lauded for his contributions to history, Manchester received numerous honors during his lifetime, including the 1988 Washington Irving Award and the 2002 National Humanities Medal.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Chicago Tribune, June 2, 2004, section 1, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, June 2, 2004, pp. A1, A14.

New York Times, June 2, 2004, p. C16.

Times (London, England), June 3, 2004, p. 35.

Washington Post, June 2, 2004, p. B7.

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